When I first went back to Europe, a couple years ago, I made it my personal business (research, you know?) to test out the theory that the gluten over there, would not make me sick. I had my first bag of chouquettes sitting on a bench, and sure enough, nothing happened. I felt as good as if I had eaten a bag of carrots.
So of course I kept testing the theory, and for that whole trip, I ate croissants, , bread, brioches and pains au chocolat with impunity. It was amazing.
The next time I went, I fully intended to follow the same regime, reasoning that my years of deprivation in the US had to find some balance, somewhere. My gut reacted a little differently that time, and it seems that I could get away with less abandon.
This time, there is no hiding from it. Whereas I can still get away with an éclair a day while in France, seems that things are quite different in Italy, and the pasta has not been my friend.
Following three days of grave unpleasantness (anyone else immediately thinks they have colon cancer when this stuff happens?) I had to have a talk with myself and come to the harsh conclusion that I needed to stay away from focaccia, pasta and maybe even ease off the gelato for a while.
Well, yesterday we went to Florence. And in Florence, there is a little panini shop my son and I discovered in the spring, which I could not wait to introduce to my partner. Line of customers winding around the street corner, they whip you a most amazing 5€ sandwich in two minutes, and I could not wait for him to have that pleasure. When we arrived at All' Antico Vinaio, I asked if they had gluten-free bread. Just in case, you know? Well, while they did not, the young man behind the counter let me know that I wanted to go down the street to Starbene, and buy a slice of "sanza-glutine" focaccia, he could make me a gf sandwich.
He didn't have to tell me twice.
I ran down the cobblestone street, opened the door to a little heaven of gluten-free pastry shop, and brought back my loot to the the sandwich place for him to layer fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. Heaven. Just heaven.
So, for dessert of course, we had to go back to Starbene. And this time, we took our sweet time choosing our goods. Eclairs, Napoleons, tartes ... all gluten free. And super delicious. Paola, the owner, surely knows her stuff and she was a delight, too. I could have hung out a week or two, with her.
In conclusion, if you are heading to Italy and can't have the gluten stuff: it's not easy. You are going to miss out on some stuff, and you are going to drool a little. AND more and more, I see the "sanza glutine" signs in the streets, in the front of stores. So, it's not impossible, and my guess is that it is going to get easier.
And in the end, for me nothing tastes as good as feeling great.
PS: now, if you have your own place where you can cook, I have to tell you that I have found THE best gf pasta ever. I don't think you could tell the difference. Simplici & Buoni pasta is made from a blend of corn, rice, buckwheat and quinoa.
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